sales strategy

How to Negotiate as a Sales Professional to Influence a Win-Win Outcome

As a sales professional,  you may be tempted to believe that you have no influence or power when negotiating with a customer. In fact, many sales professionals I work with during my strategic work sessions and seminars don't even realize they are "negotiating" in the first place.

The truth is, you are negotiating every single time you have a conversation with your customer and, more importantly, you have a tremendous amount of power to influence the outcomes of those negotiations. I'll explain . . .

Though the customer does bring the power and influence of the final decision and the checkbook to the table, you and your company bring something to the table that the customer cannot do by herself. Otherwise, you wouldn't be having the conversation in the first place.

You bring an outside perspective, data, research, superior products/services/strategies/ideas and proven strategies to apply your solutions they do not have, that can help them solve their most expensive and pervasive problems. But first, you have to understand what those expensive and pervasive problems are, and you have to prove to them you can solve them.

Here's how to wield your power and influence to facilitate a mutually beneficial outcome for the customer, your company and yourself as a sales professional:

1. Make a Value List. Based on the research you've done, and the conversations you've had with the customer, what is it that you perceive they value, need or want to feel like doing business with you is the right decision? What are 5-10 items you could give to them to add value to them, and help them achieve the outcomes they desire? Likewise, what are 5-10 you could ask for, in return, to be able to achieve the outcomes you and your company desire?

Make an actual list and have it with you during your next conversation with the customer. The purpose of the list is not to give all or ask for all on your list, it's to encourage creative give-and-take, and solution creation between you and the customer.

Enter a "What if?" Conversation. Now, take your list and start a non-committal, hypothetical exchange based on the list in front of you. "Mr. Smith, suppose we were to offer x?", "Would you consider . . .?" "How would you feel if . . ." Basically what you're doing here is testing the waters without raising sales resistance. You're just feeling your customer out to see which of the items on your list may or may not have merit. You're not promising anything, and the customer isn't committing to anything (yet).

2. Ask the Most Important Question. The most significant and important question you can ask your customer, to understand what they truly value, is some version of "what do you want?" How you ask this question is going to depend strongly on the relationship you have. The bottom line here is, you can do all the testing you want in step 1, but until you ask some of this question, you're guessing at what they value, at best. 

The secret to asking the "what do you want question" and getting a sincere and favorable response is to honestly disclose what it is you truly value and want from the business relationship first. When you do this, it lowers the resistance and defensiveness of the customer. They feel safe disclosing their true needs and wants because you did so first.

You can't begin to imagine the catastrophe I've witnessed when one party asks what the other "wants" before they volunteer what they "want." That's a recipe for conflict if ever I've seen one.

4. Partner to Create Viable Options. Many times your products, services, strategies and/or ideas won't appear to have merit with your customer. It won't be clear to you or to them how you can solve their problem. This is where the fun begins but, unfortunately, it's where most sales professionals throw in the towel and admit defeat.

If you've handles steps 1 and 2 properly, you've built adequate trust with your customer and created a problem solving momentum. Now, instead of trying to sell them a solution to their problem, get on the same side of the table as you customer, literallyand figuratively, and team up against the problem. Begin brainstorming ways to overtake the problem based on what you learned and discussed in the first two steps. Offer ideas and encourage them to do the same. When you here some for of "well, that won't work, but what if we try this?" coming from your customer, you've successfully entered the battle together.

5. Fight for Their Win. Now it's time to bring it home by assuring your customer you won't quit until you find a way to help them achieve their outcomes in a way that is fair and comfortable for the both of you. More importantly, make sure they know that you're fighting hard to help them achieve their win.

Consistently applying these steps to the negotiations conversations your having with your customers will help you to understand what it is they truly value. Once you do, you can then partner with them to help them achieve their outcomes. 

Sometimes, however, helping the customer achieve a win for their business may require you to refer them elsewhere for the short term, but it will lock you in as a trusted advisor, and you will be able to serve their business and drive revenue for your company long term.




Why most people do not negotiate effectively

For the past six and a half years, I've taught business professionals, executives and employees of all ranks, how to negotiate a win-win outcome.

Through the many experiences I've had negotiating my own deals, teaching and coaching negotiators,  and the direct feedback from the participant "laboratory," I've learned that there are basically three distinct reasons why people fail to achieve a fair and comfortable outcome for themselves, and the other party:

1. Lack of clarity - simply put, people show up to the negotiations table not even knowing what they want. They simple don't take the time to get clear, focus and prepare.

2. Their way or the highway - to make matters worse, they hunker down on how they want things to play out, and alienate the other party in the process.

3. They are trying to take, and it doesn't work - they are more concerned with what they're going to get, rather what they can freely give to add value to the other side first.

Obviously, when anyone approaches negotiations this way, the outcome might be a temporary win, but it does so much harm long-term. Trust is erroded, relationships are bruised, and the doors of opportunity are often slammed shut.

To be an effective negotiator, it is imperative that we add value to the other party first and foremost. We must be clear from the beginning on what we want to achieve, and what we're willing to give and ask for to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. 

If you are ready to develop or hone your skills as a skilled negotiator, look into our upcoming negotiations seminars, and join us for an experience that will get you results for the rest of your career.

The Most Important Conversation You Can Have as a Sales Professional

After fourteen years as a successful sales professional, and six and a half years of training & coaching sales professionals, I find that there's one critical conversation that only the absolute best of all sales professionals are having with their customers.

I admit that this is not a conversation I was having as a sales professional, but it is one that every single sales professional, and I as a small business owner, should have on a regular basis, with each and everyone of our customers.

I refer to it as the partnering conversation. Now, if believe that you already know what this is all about, I invite you challenge yourself, and stay tuned.

If you are a sales professional, or a sales manager, this one thing, injected into your current sales process, could blow your current numbers out of the water - literally overnight. Bold claim I know, but stick around and you'll see.

This partnering conversation should take place between the investigation and solution recommendation stages of your sales process.

It's a conversation where neither the sales professional, nor the customer, is committing to anything discussed. It goes like this: 

Sales professional (introducing creative options):

"Suppose we . . ." "Have you considered . . .?" "What if we . . ." "Would you be willing?" "Could you possibly . . ." "What would it mean if . . .?"

Or some other verbiage that get creative ideas flowing, and on the table, with out raising sales resistance, or causing the customer to shut down.

Starting that conversation can be as easy as prefacing those questions with something like:

"I'm not committing to anything here, nor am I asking for a decision on your part, but what if . . .?'"

This makes it safe for the customer to engage in hypothetical back and forth without the threat or fear of committing to anything in that moment.

When, and only when, the customer engages in the conversation with agreement, or some version of "well we can't necessarily do that, but what about this?," you know that you have successfully gotten the customer to invest in the solution creating process and partnering with you.

I've heard it said, time and time again, that "people support what they help create." If you're consistently getting push back, or objections, even to objections that you've covered before they've arisen, it's because your customer doesn't feel invested in the solution creation process.

Why would they buy something that is not their idea? We all know that nobody like to be sold to, but everybody likes to buy stuff. We also are aware that the difference between the two is who came up with the idea.

If you never engage your customer in a legitimate partnership conversation, don't be surprised if they disconnect when you recommended your solution.

However, if you successfully engage in that partnership conversation, more times than not, if you did a thorough job from the start of your sales process up to that point, you will not have to use "closing techniques" to win the business.

It will echo what one of my mentors told me many years ago: "If you have to close, then you don't know how to sell."

I have come to understand, since he said that, that it simply means if you know how to get your customer creating the solution with you, they can't wait to buy.

Start injecting this conversation into your current sales process, and then come back to this post and share your experience in a comment below. I'd love tho hear about it.

If you have a question about this post, leave it below in the comment section, and I will do my best to help you out.

If you would like to have me do a FREE lunch-and-learn or sales meeting webinar for your sales professionals, on this topic, send me an email at 

Article by R. Duane Huff